Roanoke Island Festival Park

Roanoke Island Festival ParkFor an area with a permanent population of less than 40,000 people who are scattered across 90 miles of barrier islands, the Outer Banks has a remarkable diversity of activities. Much of that is a result of our tourist driven economy, but once the vacationers leave our area, the off-season months continue to offer very worthwhile events.

Some events are a direct result of institutions that evolved around the desire to provide visitors with a better vacation experience, and one outstanding example is Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo.

A 25 acre site, it is remarkable how much history and activities are coordinated in one facility. For history buffs and families seeking to learn more about how the earliest European settlers came to the New World there is the Elizabeth II–a replica of a 16th century merchant ship, complete with actors playing the part of British merchantmen.

There is also The Roanoke Adventure Museum that children will find fascinating. Inside the museum hall are exhibits of an American Indian town, an early English settlement and an interactive display of the history of Roanoke Island.

Those people familiar with RIFP know it as one of the finest outdoor concert venues. The outdoor pavilion opens to a view of Roanoke Sound and performers on stage are framed by spectacular Outer Banks vistas. There is a wide grassy field in front of the stage, ideal for a picnics and concert watching, and a number of national acts are making their way to the park.

In July of 2014, Bruce Hornsby was on stage and in September the 3rd Annual Bluegrass Festival took over the site for four days. Headliners included Rhonda Vincent and the Rage and Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder. The 2015 event has already been scheduled for September 23-26.

The complete 2016 lineup is not yet posted, but typically there concerts over Memorial Day weekend, a midsummer concert series, as well as the pre-scheduled Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival.

The summer is the prime time for entertainment at the Park and children are not forgotten. A part of a regular touring stop for the North Carolina University System theater programs, include summer weeks filled with performances geared toward children which are held in the indoor theater.

The park does close in January and February, but it’s open during the rest of the year.

1 Festival Park Manteo, NC 27954
Manteo, NC
Phone: (252) 475-1500

The Paper Canoe – Duck, NC

Paper Canoe DuckWhen you meet Tommy Karole, the owner of Paper Canoe in Duck, it’s obvious he’s not a laid back southerner. He never lost his New Jersey mannerisms, has strong opinions on most topics and he understands how to create an outstanding dining experience.

What might be most remarkable about the Paper Canoe is when Tommy admits that while he was pulling all the restaurant components together he wasn’t sure just what kind of dining experience he was going to create. Over the years he had owned and managed restaurants, and he had consulted with a number of successful Outer Banks restaurant owners, but while he was building the dining room he still wasn’t sure about the direction of his own restaurant. “I knew I had a beautiful location, which I built from the ground up,” he says. “I didn’t think of food until I saw how the restaurant was coming together.”

 The view is spectacular, the bar is warm and cozy and the atmosphere is relaxing and casual. None of this would matter, though, if the food prepared by Chef Marc Berruet wasn’t truly memorable.

“I’ve worked with a lot of chefs and some were very good, but once I started working with Marc I knew I’d found the guy. Once I give him an idea, he can immediately run with it,” says Tommy. There is no one signature dish Tommy says. Instead they like to focus on what goes into the perfect meal—fresh ingredients from local suppliers, attention to detail and the perfect sauce for every dish.

It’s the sauces that Tommy feels describes the genius of his chef. “It’s all about the sauces, people,” is what he says. “If you prepare a crab stuffed with shrimp and put the right sauce on it, well it’s like nothing you’ve ever had before,” he goes on to say.

The creativity of Berruet, has allowed Tommy to bring out some very traditional dishes, but give them a singularly different treatment. “They (the diners) want to eat seafood, prepared the old school way” Tommy says. “It’s what people want when they come to the coast. We use the old standards as a building block and go from there.”

He mentions crab stuffed flounder, which he points out, is so traditional that when the suggestion was made his first thought was going out to dinner with his parents in the 1970s. “But you put the right sauce on it and it’s tremendous.”Paper Canoe Soundfront

As one would expect from a classically trained chef and ingredients sourced locally, dinner entrees are typically priced between $25.00 and $35.00. But, for couples or friends heading out for a drink, pizzas are also a part of the offerings and they’re reasonably priced.

The ambiance is definitely Outer Banks casual, meaning in this case, excellent food, very good wine selection, a lot of local beers and whatever you do—do not wear a tie to dinner. This is a place to relax and enjoy life.

It’s a place, according to Tommy, that gets recommended by friends telling friends. “You hear it all the time, ‘Hey, we’re from Pennsylvania or Maryland or Ohio and our friend told us we had to come in here,’ and that is the best level of a good feeling.”

The Paper Canoe Restaurant, which opened in 2011, is situated on the Currituck Sound at the northern end of the Town of Duck
1564 Duck Road
Duck, NC
Phone: (252) 715-2220

Bonner Bridge Replacement

bonner bridge constructionA replacement for the Bonner Bridge, connecting the northern Outer Banks with Hatteras Island, is finally going to be built. Twenty-five years after the bridge’s life expectancy has passed, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) have reached an agreement that will allow a new parallel span to be built just to the west of the existing bridge, and the old bridge will be demolished.

To their credit, NCDOT has done a remarkable job of keeping the existing bridge open, but it is becoming increasingly expensive to do so. With an agreement in hand and sighs of relief all around, construction can finally begin.

The Federal Appellate Court handed NCDOT a partial victory that included a significant legal stumbling block to building the bridge. The case went back to district court with a recommendation that the two sides seek compromise. The negotiations that have emerged allow NCDOT to build the replacement span as originally designed in the 2010 Record of Decision. The SELC raised a concern that plans to build bridges in what would become the surf zone at the S Curves north of Rodanthe and at the breach formed by Hurricane Irene in 2011 were in neither the best interests of NCDOT nor the environment. Those concerns were addressed when NCDOT agreed to a bridge in the sound that would bypass the areas.

There is still some way to go before the new parallel bridge is completed—or construction even begins. PCL Engineering, the design firm for the replacement bridge, stopped work on the project as the court battles raged. One estimate put the completed design work at 80%, but work cannot begin until 100% of the bridge design is completed. Scheduling equipment for the project also came to a halt and, according to NCDOT engineers, that is a significant hurdle to overcome.

Permits also need to be issued. Although much of the work for permits was completed when the court cases began, permits that were issued were suspended to avoid having them expire, and an all-encompassing Coast Guard permit cannot be issued until all other permits are in hand, and there are no court challenges.

The two areas of concern toward the southern half of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge will involve developing new plans to keep the road open.

Originally NCDOT planned to build bridges designed to withstand the pounding of an active surf zone, high enough over the expected level of the sea that the road would remain open at all times. Maps of the predicted retreat of the shoreline in the areas clearly show that the bridges would be in the ocean in 25-30 years.

NCDOT bridge rodanthe

The surf zone bridge concept was favored because the bridges could be built within the existing right of way granted by US Fish and Wildlife (USFW); the SELC felt the spans would damage the environment over time and that it would be safer to bypass the areas completely with bridges placed in the sound.

The first step will be creating a “jug handle” at the S Curves, traversing a short section of marsh and wetlands then bridging a three mile section of Pamlico Sound. The road will intersect with the existing NC12 at the Island Convenience Store in Rodanthe. This configuration will require a new right of way from USFW since a longer bridge will have to be built according to the original plans. However, the bridge will not have to be built to handle the same forces that a bridge in the surf would have to endure.

The area around New Inlet, which is just south of where the Irene breach occurred, is more problematic. NCDOT had already begun a project to build a 2.4 mile long bridge designed to withstand the pounding of the surf. However, that project has been halted. Instead a temporary 3000’ “interim” bridge (that’s NCDOT’s term) will be constructed as a long term solution for the area.

The favored concept at this point calls for taking the road into the Pamlico Sound and constructing a bridge approximately five or six miles in length, depending on which configuration is chosen that would connect with the jug handle bridge.

All parties agree that identifying a long term solution for this area will be difficult. Pamlico Sound by New Inlet is dotted with small islands and is a favored winter nesting site for migratory waterfowl. Any bridge built in this area will involve crossing environmentally fragile zones. Nonetheless, there is, at this point in time, a sense of goodwill among all parties to work toward a solution.

Outer Banks Brewing Station

Brew Station Outer BanksMost everyone on the Outer Banks knows where the Outer Banks Brewing Station is located. It’s a very interesting building, designed by local architect Ben Cahoon, an architectural nod to the turn-of-the-century lifesaving stations including a 30 foot boat-shaped bar and brick inlays in the dining room floor that point to the ocean and were collected over the years from cottage debris that washed to shore. Located at Milepost 8.5 on the bypass in Kill Devil Hills, what makes it most noticeable is the wind turbine in the backyard, and yes, it is functional. But, what the Brewing Station is really known for is excellent beer and food and great live entertainment.

The story goes that owners Eric Reece and Aubrey Davis, Peace Corps volunteers-Thailand-1991, came up with the idea of a brewpub that would also serve excellent food. Fast forward 10 years, and the restaurant is open in Kill Devil Hills. From the beginning the beer they brewed caught everyone’s attention. There are always at least five of their own brews on tap, each full of flavor and true to the style it represents. One of the best ways to try the brews is to order a flight, which is four 5-ounce pours.

Favorite brews definitely vary depending on the consumer. My personal favorite is the lemongrass wheat beer, which is refreshing, goes with everything on the menu and has a nice little snap to it.

BrewStation - DD&DThose who frequent OBBS regularly soon come to realize that as good as the beer is the food can easily compete. Chef Pok Choeichom, who created some of the most memorable Brewing Station dishes, recently moved on to open his own restaurant, Pok’s Art. His move was gradual and he passed the reigns to his sous chef, Tony Duman, making this a seamless transition. Which is another way of saying the food is just as good as it’s always been.

They serve both lunch and dinner and neither will disappoint. The style is pub fare, but the preparation is definitely raised a few levels, and the desserts by Tina MacKenzie are absolutely spectacular!

The magic starts with the brews, moves on to the food and ends with the music. The level of talent showcased at the Brewing Station is remarkably high. After the dinner rush, the east end of the building becomes a dance area with open space for concerts. They move the tables out, and for more well-known groups, they seem to fit a few hundred people in the facility.

It’s definitely a place to visit while on the Outer Banks. In many ways the Brewing Station has become an icon for many of the things residents appreciate about our area-great food, a casual atmosphere, fantastic beer and music-and to top it off, they care about the environment. If you’re bringing the kids, make sure to try the birch beer. Every kid who has tried it has raved about the flavor.

Outer Banks Restaurant
600 South Croatan Hwy
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Phone: 252 449 2739

Fundraising on the Outer Banks

Duck & Wine FestivalOne of the most fulfilling parts about living on the Outer Banks is taking part in raising money for various charities. It’s almost always local charities, because one of the things that defines the Outer Banks community is that we take care of our own. National charities and nonprofits do not have as strong of a presence in the local community.

There are a number of different ways that local organizations go about raising funds, but there are some things they all have in common: they have to be fun, it doesn’t hurt to have food, wine and live music, and there has to be something truly unique about each one.

The Duck & Wine Festival is a prime example of these “requirements.” In an effort to raise money for the Currituck-Dare Community Foundation, the festival takes place at the Waterfront Shops on the northern end of the Duck Boardwalk in the town of Duck, NC. The concept follows a logical pattern with a marvelous outcome. Gather all of the best chefs on the Outer Banks, tell them every dish must be based around duck, pair the dishes with wine, provide live music and (hope for) ideal weather, and you have the perfect fundraiser.

The Mustang Spring Jam in May is another exciting event for Outer Banks locals and visitors. With the word “mustang” in the title, there can be little doubt that this is a fundraiser for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, the organization that manages the Spanish Mustang herd north of where the paved road ends in Corolla.

Mike Dianna of Mike Dianna’s Grill Room has been putting on this event for the last few years and has done an outstanding job of getting some great musical talent to the Outer Banks. This fundraiser is all about music, although there is beer, wine and food available.

The Mustang Music Festival is the fall version of this event. While the Spring Jam is a one day affair, the Music Festival takes an entire weekend. One of the greatest aspects of the Mustang Music Series is how family friendly the events are.

Not as much fundraising occurs once summer begins, primarily because everyone is way too busy working the tourist season to put the time in for a successful event. However, the Red Nose Wine Festival is the exception to the rule. Taking place in the middle of July, it is tons of fun and features wine, food and live music.

The Red Nose Wine Festival is a fundraiser for the Outer Banks Relief Foundation. Not every event uses wine to raise money.

Another amazing fundraiser is the Outer Banks Marathon, which was one of the primary sources of funding for the Dare Education Foundation in its first few years. It now also supports the Outer Banks Relief Foundation. Admittedly, running 26.2 miles is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but for the dedicated thousand who turn up each year, the course takes the runners through some of the most beautiful and unique parts of the Outer Banks. And for those who want to participate but don’t feel comfortable going all the way, they can take part in the Half Marathon of 13.1 miles.

Perhaps one of the most unique fundraisers, the Womanless Beauty Pageant at Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern proves that most men should NOT attempt to get in touch with their feminine sides. But the event is hilarious, hugely successful and even more unique because each contestant is able to raise money for the charity of their choice.

It’s all part of the Outer Banks way of thinking when it comes to helping our community. The desire to do something meaningful is strong among the locals. The way we go about doing it… that may be a little different.